Elizabeth Frasier is a marathon runner, personal trainer, keto nutritionist, cannaathlete and creator of The Health Cannabist, a blog dedicated to cannabis health and fitness. She’s been using cannabis for more than 30 years, and in this interview, she discusses the healing properties of cannabis, the Entourage Effect, how use CBD to quit smoking, why she vapes, and the pros and cons of working out high.
HHH: Hey Elizabeth, thanks for taking the time to chat today, especially in light of your recent accident.
THC: Oh, it was nothing serious, I just cut through my finger with a saw blade and had to get it stitched back together. But I’m much better now, mostly thanks to the cannabis medicine I’ve been using. I’m currently taking an MCT oil tincture with THCA in it (Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, the de-active acid form of tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, the psychoactive agent in cannabis). Even though I’ve been working with cannabis and using it for years, seeing is really believing. My whole finger was purple with bruising and tripled in size, and as soon as I put the oil on, that went away. I don’t have any pain because I cut the nerves, so the oil has also been good in helping me to get some feeling and mobility back.
HHH: Have you been taking any other forms of cannabis to help the healing?
THC: I’ve been taking CBD (cannabidiol) for some time now, but since the accident I’ve been taking it more consistently because it really helps with inflammation. I just take five to seven drops and find that amount is effective. The CBD oil I take is mixed with THC at a 20:1 ratio, so a tiny amount of THC, but enough to make the CBD more effective.
HHH: You’re talking about the Entourage Effect?
THC: Right. The CBD I take is made from whole flower rather than isolate, and the strain, AC/DC, is bred for that ratio. I find it has a calming effect, and really relieves anxiety. Actually, the first time I experienced the healing powers of CBD was around a year ago when I had surgery to fix problematic sinuses and a deviated septum. I don’t like to take medications so after surgery I decided to use the opportunity to test out CBD, and it was amazing. Any time I felt pressure building up in my face, I’d take a few drops and it would instantly ease it. So then I started checking out more high CBD strains at the dispensary and that’s when I really started to fall in love with them.
Like I said, I find they really help ease my anxiety, and that’s a consistent result with the various types of CBD strains I’m trying. Bear in mind, I’m coming from a THC background, insofar as, for years, I thought the higher the THC the better. Now, I realise it has nothing to do with the amount of THC on its own but rather all the compounds working together. I’ve tried lots of different CBD isolates from a variety of lab-tested brands but none of them worked for me. That said I have clients who use them and swear by them – that’s down to the individual efficacy of cannabis. But here’s the thing, when we say the Entourage Effect, we’re referring to something that is a lot of different things and we don’t understand them all, yet. That Entourage Effect is different every single time and it’s different for every single person because so many factors determine it: the health, age, weight, lifestyle and cannabis experience of the person taking it.
“Different strains are going to affect you differently, and this is important when you’re talking about using cannabis for training because these things combined have a dramatic effect on your body.”
HHH: But, as a rule, you take whole flower?
THC: For me, whole flower is the best option because that way you’re guaranteed a rich terpene profile, and studies show different terpene profiles modulate the effect of a given flower. Whether you’re looking for an uplifting or relaxing effect, it’s the terpene profile that’s going to determine the result, and you’re only going to get that consuming whole flower cannabis. In very generalised terms, THC is great for pain and CBD is great for inflammation but when you start combining compounds those in gradients, you can create all sorts of effects based on the terpenes that are present. So, a person could take a THC for pain relief but if it’s whole flower and has other cannabinoids in it, it’s also going to have an energising, relaxing, or anti-anxiety effect depending on the flower.
HHH: What’s your preferred way to consume cannabis?
THC: 99 per cent of the time, I vape. I grew up with asthma so the feeling of smoke in my lungs is not the most pleasant. Though like most people, I did smoke when I was younger. But as I got older, I shied away from anything that has a negative effect on the body, and now, I prefer to vape because it’s a cleaner smoke. I’m a big fan of the PAX vapes, and Da Vinci does a great micro vape, too. For me, vaping is the most convenient way to smoke, and also great for microdosing during the day. It’s also the most reliable and easiest to control. I don’t have a bong because I broke every one I had, and every glass pipe, too. And I can’t roll a joint to save my life. I bet you can though, right?
HHH: Well, I’m in Europe, and smoking joints rolled with tobacco is the way we smoke here, so yes, out of necessity I nailed that skill fairly on. But here’s a thing, I want to quit tobacco and hear that vaping with CBD really helps. Have you heard about that?
THC: Yes, and I’ll tell you exactly how it works. We know that when you have an addiction of any sort, it activates the same receptors in the brain. Over time, what happens is that those receptors down regulate, meaning you need more and more of the substance you’re taking to satisfy them. In very basic terms, CBD has the ability to up regulate those receptors, and return them to homeostasis, their optimal point for normal function, meaning that once you start taking CBD your brain is no longer addicted. Once the craving is removed, it’s just a matter of breaking a habit. But it’s far easier to break a habit when there’s no physical craving involved.
HHH: I’ve been looking for a good vape oil online, and I’m finding it hard to source one with the right mg content and for the right price. How do you source yours?
THC: I get my oil at my local dispensary so that makes things considerably easier for me but this is a question I hear from my clients all the time because let’s face it, it’s a wild wild west out there. My first tip, in this regard, is to always email the company and ask for a third party independent lab test. If they’re not willing to provide it, I’m not interested. That’s my first step. I’m not interested in lab results that are posted online either because I know from experience that a lot of them are copies stolen from bigger companies. There’s a lot of that going on.
Where the flower comes from is important, and whether or not it’s made from hemp also matters because of hemp’s ability to suck toxins from the ground as a bio-accumulator. Cannabis and hemp are basically the same plant except that hemp doesn’t have a THC content higher than 0.3 per cent (in Europe the limit is 0.2 per cent) and you need a lot more hemp to get enough CBD for extraction. You also have to consider how it was grown, what pesticides might be present in the plant, how the oil was extracted, and if there are traces of solvents.
When I go to my dispensary, I know exactly where and how the flower is grown, and how the tincture is produced. Sometimes, the ratio is off but that’s because it’s a plant, not a machine. You can’t program it. This is the challenge with cannabis. It’s not possible to have a mass production of every single strain so when you go to the dispensary, they’re not always going to have the exact thing you’re looking for – but it will be close, and in a few months from now, your favourite strain comes back in when the new batch is ready.
That’s the nature of the business. What’s also great about my dispensary is that they hire scientists and botanists, which means they have the know-how to be super accurate, and replicate these medicines again, and again. They concentrate on creating formulas to treat specific requests.
HHH: Isn’t that the future of cannabis? A person can go into a dispensary looking to treat a certain ache, or because they’re feeling a bit down, and be able to get a bud that treats their specific condition?
THC: That’s the way things are going because not everyone wants to consume the same form of cannabis in the same way. Some people want to smoke, some want to vape, others want oils, or creams, or patches. Some want to take it but can’t because of issues at work, or maybe they have to hide the smell. In those cases, maybe CBD or edibles are a better option. My dispensary has just come out with a line of suppositories and in the small round of testing they’ve done, they’re seeing amazing results in terms of pain relief. Again, it’s all down to individual efficacy and personal preferences.
“Cannabis has the ability to heal and improve people’s lives in ways I’ve never seen.”
HHH: Talk to me about how you integrate cannabis into your work with your fitness clients?
THC: To be honest, it’s slow because there’s still quite a bit of stigma around cannabis and that’s why I’m getting a lot more questions about CBD. Typically, I only mention cannabis to a client when they’ve been through everything else and they’re still having problems. That’s when I might make a gentle suggestion, because usually by that point, they’re open to trying anything that will help.
However, in the last few months, there’s been a shift and people are starting to ask me about it, which is a big change. But overall, there’s still a lot of stigma out there – all because of this one molecule that’s got a bad name and yet, it’s not half as dangerous as the litany of pharmaceutical drugs out there. It doesn’t matter what you take, it has an affect your body, but at least cannabis is working to bring your body back to homeostasis, and this is what I try to teach my clients.
HHH: What would say are the pros and cons of working out high?
THC: Well, I started combining cannabis and training when I was about 17 or 18, back when I was running track for school. At the time, it never occurred to me that the two shouldn’t be combined, but also I wasn’t a big smoker. Even back then, I was microdosing, although I didn’t know it at the time. I’d never smoke so much that I’d be sitting paranoid in the corner. I have anxiety and would often get anxious before an event, so I’d take a hit to help me perform, and I did that for years. When I was in college, I told someone I’d been doing this, and couldn’t believe their reaction, a big argument erupted. That’s when I realised maybe I should be more careful, so I’d stop for a while but my performance would suffer. You can’t win them all, but for me, cannabis works.
It comes down to dosing, too. If you hit bowl after bowl, of course it’s going to affect you differently. When I run marathons, I’m in my own head for a long time, and cannabis helps me manage that, and sharpens my mental clarity. But that’s not all it’s doing. There’s inflammation going on, as well as aches and pains flaring up, and it’s helping me to manage those things, too. Your body makes anandamide (runner’s high) when you exercise, so why not take that to the next level and consume cannabis, which boosts the chemicals your own body makes.
I know plenty of athletes who have been using cannabis for years recreationally, not realising it also has all these healing benefits on the body for inflammation and recovery. If you’re in pain, and you can’t sleep, why wouldn’t you want to smoke a joint, or vape, instead of taking a handful of pills every night.
HHH: The thing is, it works great for some people, and not at all for others, so ultimately, it comes down to personal choice, doesn’t it?
THC: It does, and it also depends on the baseline of the person you’re dealing with. For example, if I have a client who’s never worked out before, I’m not going to make them do an hour of high intensity cross-fit training. Likewise, if you’re dealing with a person who has never tried cannabis before, I’m going to go slow, and find out exactly why it is they’re thinking of using it, and what result they’re looking for. That’s going to help orientate us, and make the right choice for them.
But when it comes to working out high, you have to have experience of both in order to get it right. Just because you’ve smoked joints for years, that doesn’t mean you know how you’re going to perform if you eat an edible and go to the gym. Plus, different strains are going to affect you differently, and this is important when you’re talking about using cannabis for training because these things combined have a dramatic effect on your body. It might sound a bit nit picky but if you can control these things, why not?
HHH: Is that why you started The Health Cannabist?
I felt like it was finally time for me to “come out green” and bring awareness to the medicinal benefits of consuming cannabis. I guess it felt like a calling to share the years of observation, research, and experience, of cannabis’s positive effects. You have Big Pharma doing a great job at spreading the word that cannabis is evil coupled with decades of “reefer madness” propaganda. I came to realise most people don’t seem aware of the advantages cannabis has to offer over a catalog of toxic pills, supplements, and even surgical interventions. Cannabis has the ability to heal and improve people’s lives in ways I’ve never seen. Further, beyond its medicinal value, therein lies cannabis’s power as a biohacker (performance enhancer). From the gym to the office, cannabis improves focus, productivity, and performance. I’m excited to share how to integrate cannabis as part of a health and wellness regime.